From the Land: PFM & PCCSA newsletter 12/7

From the Land 12/7

announcements

Contracts for the Spring Share of the Prescott College Community Supported Agriculture are available starting today! This season runs from the first week of January through the opening of the Prescott Farmers Market (mid-may). The share quantity varies, but members receive an average of 8 items each week: mostly produce, and occasionally a “special” item like pasta, honey, cafe bread, jam, eggs, or samosas! The PCCSA is a great way to continue supporting local farms and eating high quality locally-grown food, even in the winter, and supplies many of the items you eat on a regular basis, as well as some items that are able to be easily stored for later. In addition, the Crossroads Cafe gives a 20% discount to all PCCSA members on Wednesdays. Stop in for lunch before or after picking up your share!

Please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on our website at www.prescott.edu/csa for more information or for a contract. Contracts are due by December 31, and I would recommend turning them in ASAP, before the holiday craziness hits!

veg of the week
beets: Beta vulgaris

Beets are a member of the Chenopodiaceae, or Goosefoot family, along with spinach, chard, sugar beets and quinoa (this family also contains many salt and drought-tolerant weeds, and is now included in the Amarathaceae family). The sea beet, the ancestor of all these species, is found throughout the Mediterranean, the Atlantic coast of Europe, the Near East, and India. The beet has been cultivated since the second millennium BC, and though the leafy varieties were more common in early times, they later lost popularity with the introduction of spinach.

Beet greens can be eaten lightly steamed or stir-fried, and the beetroot is usually eaten boiled or roasted, either hot, pickled, or cooled and sliced onto a salad. They are often peeled, steamed and eaten warm with butter, cooked, pickled and eaten cold, shredded raw onto salads, or chopped into a beet soup like borscht. 

Beetroot juice is used to enhance athletic performance, presumably because of the abundance of nitrates. The red pigment contains antioxidants that help prevent heart disease and stroke and lower cholesterol; they contain the phytochemical compoundGlycine betaine, which lowers levels of homocysteine, a highly toxic metabolite that promotes platelet clot and atherosclerotic-plaque formation. Beets are also an excellent source of folates (necessary for DNA synthesis in the cells), vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant), niacin, iron, manganese, magnesium, and potassium, which lowers heart rate and regulates cellular metabolism.

Community Supported Agriculture

CSAs are a great way to support local farmers and receive fresh produce – either seasonally, or as in our case in Prescott, year-round. According to Wikipedia, CSA “is a socio-economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farming operation where the growers and consumers share the risks and benefits of food production. CSAs usually consist of a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables and fruit, in a vegetable box scheme, and sometimes includes dairy products and meat.” The farms involved usually focus on using sustainable growing practices, such as organic, Certified Naturally Grown, or bio-dynamic.

CSAs are a quickly growing feature of the local food movement. As of 2007, the USDA estimated that 12,000 farms sell through some type of CSA, and that 270,000 families participate in a CSA program – in the United States alone! Impressive numbers, which means we’re really onto something here.

The CSA model of local food distribution reached the US in the 1980s, beginning with a couple different farms on the east coast. The concept was based on the Japanese “teikei” (“food with a farmers face on it”), in which a group of consumers gets together, buys or leases land, and then hires a farmer to grow food for them. The idea has since spread and grown into what today is often very different from the original teikei model.

Traditionally, CSAs in the states consist of a single farm with “members” that take on the shared risk in the growing season.  The members sign up and pay upfront at the beginning of the season so the farmer can purchase supplies and plant their fields.  In return, the member gets a share of the bounty each week.  If there is a drought or cabbage loopers, the farmer still shares what they have. This model works well for many farmers (our local example is the Whipstone Farm CSA), but in recent years, different models of CSAs have sprouted up for one reason or another.

Aside from this traditional model, three other models have become common: the supplemental CSA model, the multi-farm CSA model, and the cooperative model. The supplemental CSA is generally a single farm that, when needed or desired, provides additional items from other farms (like a meat share, dairy, or fruit).  A multi-farm CSA is the model we use here at the PCCSA: an organized set of growers with a set distribution with seasonal support.  A cooperative CSA is a legal cooperative, in which growers organize planting, quality control and share marketing structures, usually with staff to help with the non-farm duties.

Each of these models are beneficial to their communities; some support a single farm and share in its risk, allowing the farmers to reduce their vulnerability and earn a livable wage. Some, like the PCCSA, support many farmers in the area, providing them with another market for overflow, smaller amounts of storage crops, and in cooler weather when farmers markets are not in season. The cooperative model allows farmers to plan their growing season ahead of time, knowing exactly what will be needed by the CSA. As you know, being a CSA member has many health benefits on both a personal and a community level:

  • it helps us stay in touch with the changing of the seasons. A CSA member notices that the selection of produce changes with the weather: here in central AZ the summer provides tomatoes, pepper, melons and okra, while the winter provides more root crops, salad, herbs and greens. I think I could probably tell what season it is just based on our CSA shares! Eating seasonally allows us to eat the healthiest, freshest produce possible, because it is always picked at the height of freshness, rather than being harvested early and shipped hundreds (or thousands) of miles.
  • it supports local growers. In the PCCSA, we support 15 farmers and ranchers over the course of the year, including many vegetable farms, a pecan farm, an apiary, many chicken and egg producers, as well as two cow and several goat ranches. All of our farmers also sell their goods through other CSAs or farmers markets in the area, which provides them with enough of a living to devote themselves full-time to the farm.
  • it keeps money in the community. By shopping at any local business (farms included), a vast majority of the money spent stays in the community (in part because local businesses tend to support other local businesses), while most of the money spent at a chain store leaves the community.
  • it keeps us healthy. When we have healthy food in the fridge, we automatically eat healthier! Getting a CSA share puts that healthy food into our homes, and for most people this motivates them to plan and cook more meals at home, eat fresher produce, and create community around food.
  • it allows us to try new foods. Being a CSA member means that your share probably includes occasional items that are not familiar or that you would not necessarily choose at the grocery store or farmers market. I have discovered some of my favorite vegetables this way: salad turnips, beets, kohlrabi, and chard. Once they’re in my fridge, I have to cook them, and I am “forced” to be creative, venture outside of traditional cuisine, and discover amazing combinations and flavors in the process.

recipes

roasted beet and butternut squash soup
adapted from dinnerwithjulie.com

  • canola or olive oil, for cooking
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 2-3 beets, tops trimmed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1-2 cups orange juice
  • 1 L chicken or vegetable stock
  • a big splash of half & half (optional)
  • sour cream, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450F. Spread the squash out on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Wrap the beets individually in foil. Place the sheet in the oven and the beets directly on the rack; roast for 30 minutes, or until the squash is soft and turning golden on the edges.

In a medium pot, heat a drizzle of oil over medium heat and saute the onion for a few minutes, until starting to soften. Add the garlic and roasted squash. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel and chop the beets; add to the pot along with the orange juice and stock and simmer for about half an hour.

Add the cream, puree the soup with a hand-held immersion blender and season with salt to taste. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream. Serves 6.

parsnip, carrot and potato mash
adapted from grouprecipes.com
  • 6-8 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 6 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped in large chunks
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, whole
  • 8-10 medium potatoes. peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter (may require a little more)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup or brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place parsnips, carrots, onion, garlic cloves and potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook until fork-tender.

Drain the water from the vegetables, and mash with butter, milk, and maple syrup / brown sugar until well blended. If you want, you can beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Do not beat for too long, just until smooth.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve hot. Makes 6-8 servings

almost instant pickled beets
from prescottfarmersmarket.org – originally adapted from simplyrecipes.com

  • 4 or 5 beets
  • 1/4 C cider vinegar
  • 1 T sugar or honey
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t dry mustard
  • salt and pepper

Cut beets to uniform sizes so they will cook evenly. Steam or boil around 30 minutes or until done. (Alternatively, you can roast them by wrapping them whole in foil and cooking them in a 350°F oven for about an hour.) A fork easily inserted into the beet will tell you if the beets are done or not.

Drain the beets, rinsing them in cold water. Once cool, use your fingers to slip the peels off of the beets. The peels should come off easily. Feed the peels to the chickens – they’ll probably like them. Slice the beets.

Make the vinaigrette by combining the cider vinegar, sugar, olive oil, and dry mustard. Whisk ingredients together with a fork. The dry mustard will help to emulsify the vinaigrette. Adjust to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine beets and vinaigrette in a bowl and allow to marinate for a half hour at room temperature. Serve – delicious!

curried butternut squash soup
shared by Annie

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup diced shallots (can be white onion)
  • 3 whole cloves garlic
  • 1/8 cup minced fresh ginger
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper
  • 3 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 5 – 6 cups chicken broth, heated
  • 1 inch chunk palm sugar or 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 15oz can coconut milk
  • fresh chopped chives or fresh curry leaf for garnish

In a deep stew pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the shallots or onions, stir for several minutes until wilted. Add the garlic and ginger, soften 3 – 5 minutes. Add bay leaves and crushed red pepper and cook for an additional minute or two.

Now add the squash, salt, and curry powder and cook for ten minutes or so.

Turn the heat to medium high and add the chicken stock. Put the lid on the pot and bring to a boil. Immediately lower the heat and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, stirring and mashing every 5 minutes. This will ideally reduce the size of the squash chunks. About 15 minutes into the boiling process add the sugar and coconut milk, stir.

When 30 minutes are up, remove the bay leaves from the soup. With an immersion blender, puree the soup to achieve a consistant texture.

Reheat to soup 10 – 15 minutes, adjusting the salt to taste. Garnish with chopped chives or curry leaves. Serve pipping hot!